GSoD Claims American Democracy is ‘Backsliding,’ Blames Trump
In an annual report titled The Global State of Democracy 2021 (GSoD), the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance lists the United States among nations that are experiencing a “backslide” in democracy.
The GSoD defines “backsliding democracies” as those “that have experienced gradual but significant weakening of Checks on Government and Civil Liberties…This is often through intentional policies and reforms aimed at weakening the rule of law and civic space.”
According to the report, American democracy has fallen “victim to authoritarian tendencies” due to election disinformation, voter discontent, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Misinformation about election fraud spread by former president Donald Trump was a “historic turning point” that undermined public trust in the electoral process not only in the United States but also in Brazil, Mexico, Myanmar, Peru, and other countries.
According to the GSoD, more than two-thirds of the world’s population live in backsliding democracies or autocratic regimes. Backslides typically result in a complete breakdown of democracy or resolve on their own about 10 years after the backslide beings, notes the report.
The GSoD also cites a decline in “clean elections” and political activism in the US, the latter of which is said to have ebbed as more Americans distrust the media and view the government as unable to address society’s needs. Other factors contributing to this decline include new election laws (laws enacted by GOP-led states to enhance election security) and the pandemic, which forced democracies to “hold minimally adequate elections” and tempted executives to “deploy wide-ranging emergency powers to confront the calamity that had befallen the world.”
Other key points from the report include:
- The pandemic has contributed to a global shift away from democracy and towards authoritarianism as governments take advantage of the pandemic to limit citizens’ rights.
- In 2020, there were more nations moving in an authoritarian direction during any time since 1970.
- Contributing to this shift in governance is social media (which can exacerbate polarization among a population), fake news/disinformation, and economic inequality.
- Myanmar is perhaps the most tragic victim of this shift, having experienced a military coup that defeated the nation’s fledgling democracy.
- In many backsliding democracies, there is significant popular support for elected governments to utilize authoritarian tactics.
- People living in democracies are losing faith in the election process.
- Authoritarianism is also increasing in non-democracies, such as China, whose government is utilizing technology to maintain control over its populace.
- The uneven distribution of COVID-19 vaccines will have longstanding effects on public health and basic freedoms.
- More than 80% of nations worldwide have experienced protests during the pandemic.
The GSoD ends on a positive note, framing the present as a golden opportunity for democracies to take action and rethink the connections between people and institutions. To reverse the trend towards authoritarianism, the GSoD recommends a three-point strategy in which government institutions are called on to rethink social contracts, modernize political parties and electoral procedures, and invest in democracy education.
The GSoD is an annual report that examines 29 attributes and sub-attributes based on data from 165 nations dating back to 1975. You can read the full report by clicking the link below: